The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sivagangai is located at southeast corner of Bay of Bengal, 45 km east of Madurai city. Tamil Nadu, India.
It was established on July 25, 1987 bifurcated from the Archdiocese of Madurai. The Most Rev. S. Edward Francis DD., was the First Bishop of the Diocese and the Most Rev. Dr. Jebamalai Susaimanickam DD., STD. succeeded him as the second bishop.
The territory of the diocese includes two civil districts Ramanathapuram and Sivagangai. The total population of the area is 2,661,248 of which the Catholic population is 190, 386 (8.2%) and still growing.
31 years after, the diocese has 82 parish centers, 752 mission stations about 155 diocesan clergy, 60 religious order priests and over 435 religious men and women serving at various religious and educational institutions in the diocesan region.
St. John de Britto (1693), the patron saint of the diocese, entered the region as a Jesuit missionary from Europe and became the bedrock of faith for thousands of people. He was beheaded at Oriyur on Feb 4, 1693 by a regional king for preaching about Jesus Christ and establishing churches.
Our Patron- John de Britto
John de Britto was the scion of a powerful aristocratic Portuguese family; his father, Salvador de Britto Pereira, died while serving as Viceroy of the Portuguese colony of Brazil. He joined the Jesuits in 1662, studying at the famous University of Coimbra. He travelled to the missions of Madurai, in Southern India, present-day Tamil Nadu, in 1673 and preached the Christian religion in the region of the Maravar country. He renamed himself Arul Anandar (அருளானந்தர்) in Tamil.
The ruler of the Maravar country imprisoned him in 1684. Having been expelled, he returned to Lisbon in 1687 and worked as a missions procurator. King Pedro II wanted him to stay, but in 1690 he returned to the Maravar country with 24 new missionaries.
The Madurai Mission was a bold attempt to establish an Indian Catholic Church that was relatively free of European cultural domination. As such, Britto learned the native languages, went about dressed in yellow cotton, and lived like a Thuravi/Sanyaasi, abstaining from every kind of animal food and from wine. St John de Britto tried to teach the Catholic faith in categories and concepts that would make sense to the people he taught. This method, proposed and practiced by Roberto de Nobili, met with remarkable success. Britto remained a strict vegan until the end of his life, rejecting meat, fish, eggs and alcohol, and living only on legumes, fruits and herbs.
John de Britto’s preaching led to the conversion of Thadiyathevan (தடியத் தேவன்), a Marava prince who had several wives. When Thadiyathevan was required to dismiss all his wives but one, a serious problem arose. One of the wives was a niece of the neighbouring king, the Sethupathi (சேதுபதி), the King of Ramnad, who took up her quarrel and began a general persecution of Christians. Britto and the catechists were taken and carried to the capital, Ramnad. Thence he was led to Oriyur (ஓரியூர்), some 30 miles northward along the coast, where he was executed on 4 February 1693.